Baltimore Ravens: What to Expect from Courtney Upshaw in His NFL Debut

Kyle CaseyCorrespondent IIIAugust 15, 2012

After missing the preseason opener against the Atlanta Falcons last Thursday, Baltimore Ravens rookie outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw is set to make his NFL debut.

Upshaw, who was sidelined against the Falcons due to a shoulder injury, has been practicing with the team all week and all signs point to him playing on Friday against the Detroit Lions. In fact, CBS Sports didn't even list Upshaw on the injury report, so it would be a surprise if Upshaw ends up not playing.

In Friday's game, Upshaw will likely start at outside linebacker. That role went to Sergio Kindle in the preseason opener, but Upshaw has been working with the starting unit since his return to the practice field. 

While it appears that the Ravens will use an outside linebacker-by-committee approach this season to replace injured Terrell Suggs, Upshaw is the favorite to earn the starting role. However, Kindle and linebacker Albert McClellan have had impressive camps and could still make a push for the starting outside linebacker job.

If the Ravens decide to ultimately go with Upshaw as the team's starting linebacker, they will be going with a player who looked as NFL-ready as any college football player in the country last season. Playing for the BCS champion Alabama Crimson Tide, Upshaw excelled as both an outside linebacker and defensive end.

In 13 games, Upshaw recorded 9.5 sacks and 18.0 tackles for loss. While he likely won't have stats that impressive in his rookie season, it would greatly help the Ravens defense if he could have at least five sacks and 10 or more tackles for loss.

Friday's game against Detroit gives the Ravens their first look at Upshaw in an NFL game, and the team will likely be looking at whether or not Upshaw's college production translates to the NFL. He's not a flashy player or an elite athlete, but Upshaw makes an impact on just about every play from scrimmage. It'd be a promising sign for the team to see Upshaw be that impact player that Suggs was in 2011.

Even though Upshaw may be limited in playing time on Friday night, it'll be interesting to see what kind of success he will have in his NFL debut.